Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''Cash is Conqueror'': The Critique of Capitalism in Simms's ''The Western Emigrants'' and ''Sonnet—The Age of Gold'' >> Page 90

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 90 THE SIMMS REVIEW


than the love of nature, which motivates the agrarian. Instead of revering
the rustic wealth of his own ancient lands, as the agrarian Choctaws do
in "I was a wanderer long ...," he chooses to leave them for the promise
of capital. Presenting these alternate views from two different cultures
allows Simms to convey the irony of the Choctaw removal. As Simms
shows in "I was a wonderer long ...," Choctaws held their land in high
regard and did not wish to leave, yet they were driven from their lands
by the obsessive materialism of white settlers. On the other hand, the
patriarch in "The Western Emigrants" not only fails to respect his land,
he abandons it for crude monetary gain in Mississippi, exploiting lands
there that rightfully belong to the Choctaws. Simms points out the absur-
dity of the patriarch's actions in the last lines of the poem:

'Tis to be [an exile]
In your own land—the native land whose soil
First gave you birth; whose air still nourishes,—
.......................................................
and whose breast sustains,
A stranger—hopeless of the faded hours,
And reckless of the future;—a lone tree
To which no tendril clings whose desolate boughs
Are scathed by angry winters, and bereft
Of the green leaves that cherish and adorn.
(80, 87-88, 90-95)

The meaning of the passage is clear. By leaving his homeland to become
a stranger in Mississippi, the patriarch himself is freeing his own ancient
lands to be overrun by strangers to South Carolina. Just as the Choctaws'
birth-given lands were being overtaken by white settlers, the patriarch's
land will also be ravaged in a just comeuppance for his greed.
In addition to decrying the great injustice of the Choctaw remov-
al itself, Simms presents yet another injustice directly motivated by the
removal: the rise of corrupt capitalism and materialism in Mississippi.
Once the Choctaw land covered by the 1820 and 1830 treaties had been
ceded to the United States, Andrew Jackson wrote to newly elected
president James Monroe that "the sooner this country is brought into
the market the better" (qtd. in Remini 331). To Secretary of War George
Graham Jackson wrote that "Nothing can promote the welfare of the
United States ... so much as bringing into market, at an early day, the